DCCC Elections Still an Insider’s Game

by Paul Hogarth on March 12, 2012

When SF Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin announced he was not running for re-election to the Democratic County Central Committee in June, I hoped this would mean that more “outsider” candidates could win a seat this year. Along with a move to re-apportion East Side and West Side seats on the DCCC to better reflect population, there was potential for young progressives – especially Asian candidates – on the East Side to re-shape the local Democratic Party. But except for Peskin and Debra Walker, all East Side incumbents are running this year – and another slew of big-name politicians ensure the DCCC will still be an insider’s game. Ironically, the best opportunity for outsiders will be on the conservative West Side – where only six of the 12 incumbents are running. But with a majority of the current Board of Supervisors running, there isn’t much room for new blood.

Nowhere but San Francisco is running for your local Democratic County Central Committee more competitive, more chaotic and more expensive. And a quick look at the field of candidates this year (the filing deadline was Friday) suggests that DCCC elections will be even more of an insider game.

As the local “voice” of San Francisco Democrats, the DCCC elects members from the East Side (i.e., Tom Ammiano’s Assembly District) and from the West Side (i.e., Fiona Ma’s Assembly District.) In the past, the DCCC had 12 seats on the East Side and 12 on the West Side. This year, because of redistricting and to more accurately reflect the number of Democratic voters in San Francisco, the DCCC voted to apportion 14 seats on the East Side and 10 on the West Side. But that hasn’t changed much at all.

On the East Side, ten of the 12 DCCC incumbents are running for re-election to the 14 seats. Supervisor John Avalos, who was elected in 2010 as a West Side member, has been “re-districted” and is running for re-election on the East Side. Meanwhile, other “big names” running on the East Side include Supervisor Malia Cohen, School Board member Hydra Mendoza, ex-Supervisor Bevan Dufty, mayoral aide Joaquin Torres, District 5 candidate London Breed and political columnist Warren Hinckle.

Who are the ten East Side incumbents running for re-election? Supervisors David Campos, David Chiu & Scott Wiener, former candidates Rafael Mandelman, Alix Rosenthal & Gabriel Haaland, ex-Supervisor Leslie Katz, former State Senator Carole Migden, and appointed DCCC incumbents Matt Dorsey & Leah Pimentel.

It’s safe to predict that most (if not all) of these candidates will win on sheer name recognition. With 33 candidates running on the East Side, the others won’t stand much of a chance. Incidentally, only four of the East Side candidates are Chinese (including incumbent David Chiu) and only two are Pilipino – a remarkable lack of diversity of who runs for, and who gets elected to, the Central Committee.

On the West Side, 21 candidates are running for only 10 seats – but odds look a lot better for a “newcomer” to pull an upset. Six of the 12 West Side incumbents are not running – John Avalos is running on the East Side, whereas DCCC members Sandra Lee Fewer, Milton Marks, Jane Morrison, Melanie Nutter and Connie O’Connor have opted not to run again. It will still be a tough race (Supervisor Eric Mar is among the well-known incumbents), but any hope for a fresh face will be on the West Side.

As I reported last week, an encouraging number of young candidates are running on the West Side for DCCC – and hopefully, at least a few will pull it off. They are Mike Alonso, Wendy Aragon, Kevin Bard and Peter Lauterborn.

But overall, this June’s election looks very much like an insider’s game. In fact, six of the 11 current Supervisors are all running …

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